Gay, Bisexual Men Rely on “Chosen Families” More Than Lesbians, Bisexual Women for Major Needs, Study Shows

For Immediate Distribution
Feb. 2, 2016

Contact:
Lauren Jow, jow@law.ucla.edu, 310-206-0314

LOS ANGELES — Gay and bisexual men tend to rely on other gay and bisexual men for major needs, whereas heterosexuals, lesbians and bisexual women rely more on family, according to a new report co-authored by Ilan Meyer, Williams Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, and published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

The study, titled “Social Support Networks Among Diverse Sexual Minority Populations,” examined data collected in New York City under the Stride Project supported by the NIH (MH066058).

The study differentiated between support for major needs – such as borrowing a large sum of money or help when one is sick – and everyday needs – such as small favors, social activities, help with small chores or discussing worries. Patterns were similar across all racial and ethnic groups.

“Given that LGB individuals share similar identities and lived experiences, they may be better able to understand the nature of the minority stress other LGB individuals experience and provide specific support that heterosexual friends may not be capable of providing given their lack of personal connection to the minority stress experience,” said David M. Frost, Lecturer in Social and Health Psychology at the University of Surrey, England, and first author on the study.

Key findings from the report include:

• For everyday needs, all groups relied more on others, like friends and coworkers, rather than family or their partners. LGB people relied primarily on other LGB people of the same race or ethnicity as themselves.

• For major needs, gay and bisexual men relied primarily on other gay and bisexual men of the same race or ethnicity, while heterosexuals, lesbians and bisexual women relied mainly on family of origin.

• When lesbians and bisexual women relied on non-family members for major needs, those people were mainly LGB, too.

• Racial/ethnic minority LGBs relied on similar LGB others at the same rate as did White LGBs but, notably, racial/ethnic minority LGBs reported receiving fewer dimensions of support.

“The study suggests more similarities than differences among Black, Latino and White LGBs, showing that LGBs of cover were embedded in LGB communities,” Meyer said. “But that isn’t to say that LGBs of color are embedded in a White LGB community. Such communities are diverse.”

The report was co-authored by David M. Frost, Lecturer in Social and Health Psychology at the University of Surrey, England; Ilan Meyer, Williams Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law; and Sharon Schwartz, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.

Click here to read the full report.